MANILA — Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has ordered a halt to all mining on an island in a southern province that is home to some of the country’s nickel projects, a Cabinet official said on Tuesday.
Duterte was “very much concerned” about reports that the Tumbagan Island in Languyan, in Tawi-Tawi province, has been “completely devastated” by mining activities, Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles said in a media briefing.
“The island has, at this point, been mined out. And while rehabilitation efforts are under way, the president is issuing a directive to stop any and all mining,” he said.
Duterte also directed authorities to step up the island’s rehabilitation by planting more trees, Nograles said.
Mining operations in Tawi-Tawi are not closely monitored by the Philippines’ Mines and Geosciences Bureau because the province is within an autonomous region.
Duterte’s order does not cover the country’s nickel mining hub in Caraga region.
In 2019 SR Languyan Mining Corp, one of the miners operating in Tawi-Tawi, said the island’s ore deposits, which were considered high-grade material, were nearly depleted after years of continuous ore extraction.
The Philippines has become the biggest supplier of nickel ores to top metals consumer China since Indonesia banned the export of unprocessed minerals in January last year.
The Southeast Asian country’s mostly low-grade material is used in producing nickel pig iron, the main ingredient for stainless steel.
Since he assumed power in 2016, Duterte has repeatedly threatened to shut down the country’s mining industry, castigating miners for damaging the environment.
—Reporting by Enrico Dela Cruz Editing by David Goodman